Margaret McCarthy’s early vision for the DC Scholars Program was for Cal State Fullerton students to have a transformational experience and engage in a meaningful way with politicians in the nation’s capital.
“We envisioned combining three experiences — study away, working and being immersed into a more formal East Coast culture,” she said. “We knew that this program could be a pivotal career gateway for students.”
The dedicated CSUF supporter was so passionate in pitching the idea to Tom Klammer, former dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, that she and her husband, Michael Potter, provided the seed money to pilot the program. She also served as chair of its advisory board.
More than 400 CSUF students have participated since its launch in 2006, and several Cal State campuses have since replicated the program, said Steven Stambough, professor of political science and founding director of the Cal State DC Scholars Program.
McCarthy, also a former vice chair of the CSF Philanthropic Foundation Board of Governors, recently was honored for her continued commitment to the growth of the program with the Humanities and Social Sciences Cornerstone Award — a new honor designated to spotlight foundational and inspiring supporters.
“Margaret is the ideal inaugural recipient for this award,” said Sheryl Fontaine, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “Her vision and support truly provided the cornerstone on which the Cal State DC program was built. Her energy and perseverance has touched the lives of countless Cal State Fullerton students and alums.”
Junior, senior and graduate students apply to study and intern in the nation’s capital each summer while earning academic units in the Cal State DC Scholars Program. The internships can be in congressional offices, executive agencies, museums, security firms, business groups, political parties, advocacy groups, nonprofits and other offices in and near Washington, D.C. The program is nonpartisan and welcomes students from all political groups.
“For a lot of these students, this is the first time away from home or fully outside of their comfort zone, and supporters like Margaret provide the vision for the program and get people past that question of whether they can do something like that,” Stambough said. “In addition to her encouragement, her financial support helps make this possible for many students.”
Stambough leads the DC Scholars program again in fall 2016. He and David Kelman, associate professor of English, comparative literature and linguistics, will take as many as 30 students to Washington, D.C., in June for the summer program session.
The program shines among many that put CSUF on the cutting edge of high-impact and challenging experiences that prepare graduates for the workforce, McCarthy said.
“Our scholars are such impressive young people. They are the perfect package — intelligent, hard-working, skilled and driven,” she said. “I remind donors that supporting the DC Scholars program is one of those rare opportunities for donors to actually have the possibility of directly impacting a student’s life. These scholars are our future.
“My hope is that this program will be recognized as the premier, high-impact practice program for the entire CSU system, and we will have dozens of students from each university participating [each year].”